Goodwater AL Feb 4 2011 An Alabama police officer shot and wounded a defendant in a small town courtroom after he tried to grab a gun and attack a judge, authorities said on Thursday.
But three witnesses gave a different version of events at the municipal court in Goodwater, a town of around 1,500 in central Alabama, northeast of state capital Montgomery.
They said the officer used unnecessary force in twice shooting a defendant they said became unruly but did not attempt to get a gun and was anyway on crutches with a broken hip sustained in a car accident.
The second shot fired by the officer was unnecessary because the defendant lay prone, they said.
After the first shot the defendant “slid down real slow. The officer took two or three more steps and shot him again,” William Allen, 20, who was in the courtroom’s third row, said in an interview.
The Alabama Bureau of Investigation said the defendant: “attacked the Municipal Court judge and attempted to forcibly obtain a firearm when he was shot by a Goodwater police officer who was providing courtroom security.”
The bureau, which did not name the defendant, based its statement on a preliminary investigation of an incident it said took place at around 9.39 a.m. local time. Witnesses said the defendant was local resident Brian Ford.
The wounded man was taken by ambulance to Sylacauga and transferred by helicopter to University of Alabama at Birmingham hospital, the bureau said.
Ford was in surgery at the hospital on Thursday afternoon, said hospital spokeswoman Nicole Wyatt.
Sara Williams, 69, a retired ambulance driver and fire fighter from Goodwater, witnessed the scene from the courtroom’s front row.
The defendant shouted at the judge after he was sentenced, swung his crutches and “got real disorderly”, provoking a melee but posed little threat because he was on crutches, she said.
People screamed when the first shot was fired and shouted at the officer not to shoot again but he told them to clear the court, “stood over him on the ground and shot him again,” she said in a version similar to that of other witnesses.
“It was senseless to shoot him twice. I could have knocked him down,” she said.
Police in Goodwater and the Coosa County sheriff’s office declined to comment.